Federal NDP Leader Tom Mulcair was in Toronto for the Pride parade this weekend. Xtra chatted with him at the Metropolitan Community Church’s Pride service about the meaning of Pride, the challenges that remain for the queer community and Mulcair’s special relationship to the bear community.
Xtra: What does Pride mean to you?
Mulcair: For me it’s always been an opportunity to remind people that the job’s not done, that there’s a lot of discrimination out there in society against LGBT folk, and to explain to people that diversity is a good thing in our society. It’s to be celebrated.
Why are you marching today?
I’ve been doing this for years, simply because I’m part of the generation that saw the changes coming into place in our society. I played a role in that in Quebec City [as an MNA] when we changed our charter of rights up there, and it’s something I continue to work on now with our caucus. [NDP MP] Randall Garrison’s bill on protecting transgender people in Canada is a good example of the proposition part of our work. We’re not just the opposition, and we’re just going to keep fighting very hard to remove those last barriers and the remaining discrimination. Showing up here today, both at the service and in the parade – I’ll do Montreal and I’ll do Vancouver – it’s just an important way of saying that in Canada everyone has to have their rights respected.
Will you be going to any of the smaller Pride festivals?
That’s a pretty busy schedule to be doing the three major cities in Canada.
What makes Toronto Pride special?
It’s the biggest one. Montreal’s got a great Pride parade, but when I came here last year for the first time, I was like, "Oh my goodness, this is a monster parade."
Last year, there was a big Bears for Mulcair contingent —
We keep those signs proudly. John Baird has one of them, by the way, and he’s very happy with it. He says it’s the funniest thing he’s got.
Is that on display in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs?
No, but he talks to me about it regularly.
So the bears have welcomed you into their den?
Yes, my nickname on the French side has always been “The Grizzly” anyway.
What kind of strategies are you pursuing in the upcoming by-election in Toronto-Centre?
We’ve got some really exciting people who’ve come forward and expressed some interest in Toronto Centre. We know it’s a Liberal riding and pretty well always has been, but we’re really going to give it a good shot this time around. It’s going to be an exciting race. Some of the people, I’m absolutely bowled over by the quality of the people who’ve expressed an interest so far.
That would spoil all the fun, wouldn’t it?
What are the big concerns you’re hearing in this riding?
Toronto is Canada’s most important city. I say that whether I’m in Toronto or Montreal. We have to understand that all our major cities have to have urban issues looked at specifically. Matt Kellway has a specific mandate from me within our caucus to work on urban issues.
We were out here a month and half ago announcing a series of measures having to do with urban issues, whether it’s transit or whether it’s housing. These are key issues that have been abandoned by successive Liberal and Conservative governments, and an NDP government in 2015 will get back to reinvesting.
What Canadians need to understand is that the NDP government in 2015 will make this a priority because we understand that the economic health of our cities determines the economic health of the whole country.
What about gay and lesbian issues?
I think that Randall Garrison’s bill is a perfect example of the commitment of our caucus. We’re going to make sure that we keep on understanding those issues more than anybody else, and we’re going to act on them.
How do you differentiate the NDP from the Liberals on LGBT issues?
When Randall Garrison’s bill came up for a vote in the House of Commons, fully one-third of the Liberal caucus managed not to be there. So you can ask them what they had to do that day that was more important than removing discrimination against trans people in Canada, and I think that every one of them should be ashamed of themselves for not being there for that vote.